Ghostface Killah

The Big Doe Rehab
Def Jam Recordings

From its inception inside the RZA's head to its massive double LP in 1998, the Wu Tang Clan was operating from a master plan; everything from the personalized beats to the color of their Wallabees seemed premeditated. But since then, only the mighty Ghost seems to remember that strategy. Taking cues from workaholic Lil Wayne by releasing about eight albums (solo, and with his various collectives) in the last two years, Ghostface reveals it's all part of blueprints sketched out like this: After carrying an air of alluring mystery through 36 Chambers, hit 'em off with two stone-cold classics four years apart, before slipping into more soulful and contemplative waters. Then, by the time the nation's attention span approaches absolute zero, drop brilliant product like Armageddon has already started.

Although not another stand-alone classic, The Big Doe Rehab adds to Tony Starks's legacy, another near-flawless collection from an old soul, drenched in old soul samples, heartfelt self-examination, and cinematic mini-structures. While Ghost hasn't really innovated his flow, his flavor still teems with freshness, and his storytelling is as vivid as ever. The barebones beats swing and bump in all the right places. Though they don't approach the sublimity of Ironman's swagger or Supreme Clientele's sparkle (and aren't shy about jacking a well-known vocal snippet of fat bass line), the soul-sampling beats evoke emotions effectively enough to carry the project. Criminology epics mix with the-good-life celebrations, as the denseness of Ghost's seemingly impenetrable aesthetic and narrative tropes remains. The whole thing ends way too soon, demanding tens—nay, hundreds—of further listens. As the Wu's best (or only) bankable star releases yet another cut of pure dope for his fiends, we're already strung out and still can't get enough—rehab can wait.

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